October 2015 - Horse People: Jordan Crabo
Written by Kim F. Miller
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 23:37
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Young eventer follows her mom’s footsteps and makes her own mark.

by Kim F. Miller

There are no “But, Mom…”s to be heard when professional event rider Barb Crabo coaches her 12 year old daughter Jordan.

Jordan was Baby Bjorned on horseback when she was a few months old. She first competed at 7 on an Appaloosa Pony of America named Chocolate and is now whizzing around Junior Novice tracks aboard Wildwych Eclipse with solid rides in all phases. Not to mention nice ribbons.

“I am probably harder on her than I am on most of my clients,” says Barb. “We actually went through a little phase when she wasn’t doing well as a student. So I took her to a hunter/jumper barn, where she got a fantastic start.”

When Jordan wanted to start preparing specifically for eventing competition, it was time for “a little talk,” Barb recalls. Their mutual interest in Jordan training with Barb was established -- with conditions. “That means, when we’re doing lessons, you can’t treat me like your mom. You’ll be just like one of my other students.” It took a few trials, Barb acknowledges, but it’s developed into a good student-teacher relationship.

“I really like having my mom as my coach,” says Jordan. “At the dinner table, we talk about how the ride went that day or how we’re going to approach a certain fence the next day.”

At press time, Jordan was heading to the USEA’s American Eventing Championships, where Barb and Eveready II were Advanced Level champions in 2011. The owner of Four Peaks Farms in Scottsdale, AZ, Barb is a veteran Four Star rider. She has three Rolexes, including this year, on her resume and her daughter aspires to all that and more.

“The sky’s the limit,” says Barb of the possibilities. Jordan and Eclipse are currently preparing for Training Level with its four-inch fence height bump, to 3’3”, and increased difficulty in show jumping and dressage.

Her abilities will outgrow Eclipse’s at some point, and Barb can’t help doing the math on whether the now 16-year-old Eveready II, a homebred, would be a suitable Preliminary horse for Jordan when she reaches the division’s minimum age of 14. And it’s irresistible to look at Four Peak’s young horses as prospects for Intermediate when Jordan is 16. “But really, we’re not in any hurry,” she assures.

Right now the focus is on continued progress with Eclipse, Jordan’s partner since August of 2014.

The 12 year old, 14 hand Connemara was a poster boy for the breed during exhibitions at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, and he produced several young stars as a breeding stallion for first
owner, Redbud Ranch.

However, he wasn’t a model citizen when he came to the Crabos. He was owned by a client who’d become “terrified of him,” Barb explains. “There was so much pent up frustration in that little pony.” Gelding him was in order, but even after that, he wasn’t “the right match” for his owner.

That coincided with the right time to retire Jordan’s first show mount, Chocolate, now in her mid-20s. Barb knew Eclipse had plenty of talent and sensed that Jordan might be the rider for him. Their partnership had its share of upsets early on, but it’s evolved into a mutually beneficial relationship.

“He’d never been a kid’s pony before and he’s now the happiest little guy,” Barb shares. Not perfect, though, and that’s how he helps Jordan. The late-life gelding left him with plenty of attitude, giving Jordan ample opportunities to advance her horsemanship. He’s also bold on cross-country with scope to spare. “There is never any question of him getting to the other side,” Barb says of a confidence booster for anybody, especially a young rider and maybe more so, the parents.

Per Jordan, Eclipse is “either a speed rocket or pretty slow,” and it can take him a while to get warmed up. Gait transitions help him wake up, but too many before a dressage test are a mistake, she reports.

Cross-country is Jordan’s favorite phase of eventing. “It’s just you and your horse in an open field with jumps,” she explains. Galloping along, she talks to Eclipse about each upcoming fence. When his ears twitch front and back, she knows he’s listening.

They overcame recent difficulty with ditches by Jordan keeping her eyes up on approach. Warned of ditch issues by Eclipse’s previous owners, Jordan started looking down at the obstacle, which led to refusals and falls.  Her mom’s advice to “look up at the treetops,” real or imagined, solved that problem.

At home, bareback trail rides are a favorite downtime activity, usually on the dirt roads at a nearby park. They talk more on trails, and Eclipse is a great break partner when Jordan takes a breather from her long list of barn chores. “Sometimes I just go and lean against him for a little bit.”

Her Own Thing

One of Barb’s biggest fears is that Jordan would ride because Barb wanted her to. She and her equine veterinarian husband Martin have not had cause for concern on that front. “She was always incredibly comfortable around horses, and has always shown interest in them and in riding.”

The couple is careful to identify and honor the line between what parents want for their child and what the child wants for themselves. “Obviously the horses were our first choice,” Barb admits. “You know what they say about the family that plays together stays together.” And it’s certainly convenient when everybody is devoted to the same activity.

When a holiday ice skating excursion sparked Jordan’s interest, Barb and Martin were quick to support it. It’s a sport that holds its own with equestrian in time and cost. For much of Jordan’s five years of figure skating, it was five weekly practices, two before school, travel and a surprisingly expensive wardrobe. As Jordan’s skating progress paralleled that with horses, they knew she’d have to choose between the sports at some point. Barb made sure it was Jordan’s decision.

In the summer of her tenth year, Jordan said she was ready to quit skating. “There was a big competition coming up in August, so we decided she would continue with that, and then decide.” Jordan wound up winning with the two programs she’d prepared, yet remained resolved in her decision to hang up her blades. (Martin, on the other hand, has stuck with it, playing hockey in an adult league. It’s a sport he pursued in his youth and was reintroduced to through Jordan’s interest.)

Raised in the proper eventing tradition of doing plenty of dirty work, Jordan has a working student role at Four Peaks Farm. Her allowance is paid in entry fees, board, feed, etc. She supplements that budget with earnings from a tack cleaning business and she does her own braiding, grooming and anything else that needs doing.

She loves the show scene even though there’s not many kids her age competing in her division. Having grown up following her mom on the circuit, Jordan has many friends and fans cheering her on as she makes her own mark in the sport.